Forget the typical tour bus holiday: lace up your trekking boots, grab a bike, and bring a sense of adventure to discover the real beauty of Myanmar on this outdoorsy holiday. Spend two weeks exploring the country’s main sites and hidden gems—from U Bein Bridge and the temples of Bagan to a day with elephants in Kalaw—forging a closer connection with the people and culture that make Myanmar so special.

Highlights

  • Cycle across famed U Bein Bridge
  • Go for a thrilling train ride across Gokteik Viaduct
  • Spend a day with elephants in Kalaw
  • Cruise around Inle Lake on a traditional wooden boat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Yangon: International Arrival Yangon
Day 2 Yangon: Dhala & Downtown Yangon
Day 3 Yangon: Spiritual Shwedagon- Fly to Mandalay Mandalay
Day 4 Mandalay: River Cruise to Mingun & Historic Highlights Mandalay
Day 5 Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin Pyin Oo Lwin
Day 6 Pyin Oo Lwin to Gokteik Viaduct to Mandalay Mandalay
Day 7 Bike U Bein Bridge to Inwa; drive to Bagan Bagan
Day 8 Explore Bagan by bike Bagan
Day 9 Bagan to Heho to Pindaya Pindaya
Day 10 Pindaya: Full Day Trek- Drive to Kalaw Kalaw
Day 11 Kalaw- A Day with the Elephants- Kalaw Kalaw
Day 12 Kalaw to Inle Lake by Local Train Nyaung Shwe
Day 13 Inle lake: Full day by boat Nyaung Shwe
Day 14 Fly to Yangon; International Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Yangon: International Arrival

Shwedagon Pagoda from afar
Shwedagon Pagoda from afar

Welcome to Myanmar! Your holiday begins in Yangon, the country’s former capital and largest city. A guide will greet you at the arrivals terminal and transfer you to town to check into your hotel.

There are no planned activities today, giving you time to recover from your international flight.

Day 2: Yangon: Dhala & Downtown

A woman selling fresh fish at street market in Yangon
A woman selling fresh fish at street market in Yangon

Today, you'll set off on an in-depth tour of Yangon, seeing local ways of life and learning about Myanmar’s rich culture. Start with a visit to Dhala, a charming village. Take a local ferry boat across the Yangon River to get there. Although geographically not far from the city, Dhala feels like a completely different world: tranquil, undeveloped, and exuding an old-world charm. Climb aboard a pedal-powered trishaw (a three-wheeled vehicle, similar to a rickshaw) to explore quiet streets and local neighborhoods. 

Return to town and take a walk through downtown, pausing to learn the stories behind famous colonial-era buildings.  Explore street markets and more, popping into a local tea shop for a snack if you wish.  If time allows, board a slow-moving train for a ride through the suburbs.

Day 3: Yangon: Spiritual Shwedagon - Fly to Mandalay

People praying at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

Check out after breakfast this morning and meet with your local guide. Spend an insightful morning in and around Myanmar’s most holy site: Shwedagon Pagoda. More than just a monument, this site offers you a chance to learn about the beliefs of Myanmar's people. Make donations to monks and meet a fortune teller—stop to get your fortune read, if you like—as you walk around the pagoda and its surrounding neighborhood. 

After lunch, continue to the Yangon airport for an early evening flight to Mandalay. Upon landing, your local guide will greet you and accompany you on the one-hour drive into the city.

Day 4: Mandalay: River Cruise to Mingun & Historic Highlights

Mingun Paya, a massive monument stupa

Travel to the banks of the Irrawaddy River and board a private boat to Mingun. Cruise an hour up the river, enjoying the views along the way. Disembark and explore the Mingun Paya—a massive, brick structure steeped in history—and the Mingun Bell. A short walk through the village takes you to Hsinbyume, a whitewashed pagoda.  Enjoy an early lunch at a café on the edge of the river, then return to Mandalay by boat.

Pop into a workshop where artisans make gold leaf by hand: the final product is sold throughout Myanmar to Buddhist devotees who place the thin leaves on sacred images. At the end of the day, explore Kuthodaw Pagoda and Shwe Nandaw Kyaung. The former is often referred to as the "Worlds Biggest Book," as it has more than 700 marble slabs engraved with Buddha's teachings. The latter is the last remaining building from the former Royal Palace.

Day 5: Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin

Horse carts in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar
Horse carts in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar

Venture into the hills today, traveling by car from Mandalay to the town of Pyin Oo Lwin. Located in the Shan Mountains, Pyin Oo Lwin has a cooler climate than Mandalay and was used by the British as a hill station. Spend the afternoon exploring this charming town by horse and cart. Admire colonial-style buildings, colorful markets, and quiet side streets. Then take a walk around the sprawling botanical gardens, an immaculate collection of plants and flowers from around the world.

Day 6: Pyin Oo Lwin to Gokteik Viaduct to Mandalay

Train passing the famous viaduct Goteik between Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw in Shan State, Myanmar
Train passing the famous Goteik viaduct in Shan State, Myanmar

Today you will take an adventure of a different kind. In the morning, board a train for a scenic four-hour journey on the Mandalay-Lashio railway. As the train slowly moves north, you will enjoy scenes of local villages, endless farms, and the occasional waving child. The highlight of the journey is crossing the Gokteik Bridge, an impressive bridge high above the valley floor. Take in spectacular views as the train traverses the gorge. Disembark in a small town, where a car will be waiting to take you on the drive back to Mandalay.

Day 7: Bike U Bein Bridge to Inwa & Drive to Bagan

A view of U Bein Bridge in Mandalay, Myanmar
A view of U Bein Bridge, Myanmar

 

Drive out of the city center to U Bein Bridge, the world's longest teak bridge. Snap some photos and go for a walk on this historic bridge before hopping on bikes for a fun cycling adventure. Ride past weaving workshops and along small village lanes, then make a turn onto a busy road for a short ride to the banks of the Dohkthawaddy River, where a ferry boat will take you to Inwa. Also know as Ava, this town served as the capital several times from the 9th to 14th centuries; the cycling route is dotted with historic monuments. You will also pedal through village lanes, getting a chance to see local ways of life.

Enjoy a picnic lunch in a monastery or family home. Then say farewell to your Mandalay guide and continue by road to Bagan.

Day 8: Explore Bagan by bike

Hot air balloons in Bagan
Hot air balloons in Bagan

Spend a full day exploring the wonders of Bagan by bike or electric bike (similar to a scooter). Take advantage of the network of trails that criss-cross the pagoda plains to get an up-close look at the historic monuments. See highlights such as Ananda, Shwezigon, and Dhammayangyi, as well as lesser-known temples—you'll also have a chance to visit a local market and pedal through quaint villages.

Day 9: Bagan to Heho to Pindaya

Buddha statues inside the caves of Pindaya
Buddha statues inside the caves of Pindaya

Leave the flat, arid plains of Bagan this morning and travel to the hills of the Shan State. A short flight will take you to Heho, where a car will be waiting to take you on a scenic drive to Pindaya. Pass through fertile fields growing cabbage, pumpkins, and other seasonal crops, and keep an eye out for members of the Pa-Oh and Danu ethnic groups in their distinctive traditional dress.

Upon reaching Pindaya, head straight to the market. Mingle with the locals as you browse the stalls selling everything from fresh produce to dried fish. Then, after checking into your hotel, venture through town to a quiet neighborhood. Meet with a local family at their tea plantation: you'll take a short walk through the land, learning how to identify fresh leaves ready for harvest, then continue to the family’s house, where you'll enjoy tea from the plantation and other local treats.

The final excursion of the afternoon is to the renowned Pindaya caves. Arrive in the late afternoon, long after the day tour buses have left, and wander through the massive cave to admire the thousands of Buddha images found inside.

Day 10: Pindaya: Full Day Trek - Drive to Kalaw

An agricultural area in the Shan Hills of central Myanmar
An agricultural area in the Shan Hills of central Myanmar

Fuel up with a big breakfast before setting off on a trek into the hills. Leave town on foot and walk up dirt tracks that lead to small villages. The gentle slope of the trail takes you higher and higher into the hills and offers fabulous views of the town and its surrounding fields. Stop along the way at a cave filled with Buddha images, then take a break in one of the small villages inhabited by the Danu ethnic group.

Around midday, you'll arrive at another village for a lunch break, getting a chance to see the ways of life and traditions of the Danu people. After a short rest, resume the trek, following a different route down to Pindaya. The mostly downhill trek offers more fantastic views of the Shan Hills. Continue by car to Kalaw for the evening.

Day 11: Kalaw- A Day with the Elephants- Kalaw

In the past, logging elephants were used to transport wood
In the past, logging elephants were used to transport wood

After breakfast this morning, you'll drive through the Shan Hills to the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp, a retirement home for former logging elephants. You will spend the day working with the mahouts (elephant caretakers), interacting with the elephants and learning more about these gentle giants. Note that the elephants are not tame like circus elephants: they are free to wander as they like, but they love human company, so you will likely get a lot of trunk-to-face time with them. 

After your visit, drive back to Kalaw for the evening.

Day 12: Kalaw to Inle Lake by Local Train

A woman harvesting red chili near Kalaw, Myanmar
A woman harvesting red chili near Kalaw, Myanmar

 

Spend the morning exploring Kalaw, walking around the morning market, enjoying the fresh air, or taking a light trek into the hills. After lunch, take a short drive to Kalaw's colonial-era train station and board the slow-moving commuter train for the scenic journey toward Inle Lake. For three hours, the train passes through farming villages, rice paddies and around scenic highland areas.

Get off in the town of Shwe Nyaung, the gateway to Inle Lake. Check in to the hotel and enjoy a relaxed evening at your leisure.

Day 13: Inle Lake: Full day by boat

A local fisherman on Inle Lake

Take a short trishaw ride (or walk) to the Nyaung Shwe jetty, where you'll board a wooden motorboat for an excursion on Inle Lake. You'll explore villages built on stilts and floating gardens, getting a chance to learn about the life and culture of the lake’s residents. Stop into artisan workshops to see people making incredible hand-woven silks and fabrics with the fibers of the lotus flower, then visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, where you can join local devotees as they come to pay homage to this sacred site. 

Day 14: Fly to Yangon; International Departure

Sunset at Ngapali
Sunset at Ngapali Beach

After breakfast, transfer to the Heho Airport for your flight to Yangon. Once landing, make your way to the international airport for your onward travels. Have a safe journey!